(Bloomberg) -- Standard Chartered Plc overcame economic headwinds across Asia to beat forecasts in its second quarter driven by reduced credit losses, allowing it to buy back shares and plan a small dividend.

The London-headquartered bank made an underlying pretax profit of $1.24 billion, ahead of estimates of about $940 million, according to company-compiled analysts’ forecasts, and up from $733 million a year earlier. The beat followed last week’s gloomy IMF forecast for Asia, where the bank makes most of its money, amid concerns that uneven access to Covid-19 vaccines could stunt growth in parts of the region.

Boosting Standard Chartered was an improved credit outlook as it released loan provisions, compared with a $611 million reserve a year ago. The bank will buy back $250 million in shares and pay an interim 3 cents a share dividend.

“The recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is uneven and volatile, though encouragingly the trends we see as we exit the quarter are more positive in our bigger markets,” the bank said in its earnings statement. The lender, whose profit driver continues to be in Asia, is also expecting full-year 2021 income to be in line with that of the previous year.

The bank joins its British peers in unveiling shareholder payouts as global economies start to leave behind the worst impact of the pandemic. HSBC Holdings Plc said on Monday that it’s speeding up plans for payouts including shareholder buybacks and also paid a dividend.

Standard Chartered’s wealth management unit posted a 26% jump in operating income for the quarter, while its key financial markets business posted a 3% increase due to a mixed performance from its fixed-income trading activities. Retail slumped 7%.

Asia was its strongest region, with profit up 75% to $1.01 billion, countering declines in Europe and the Americas.

Standard Chartered has been among the worst performers this year in the Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index. The bank has dropped 6.3% while the gauge has soared 21%.

Other high-lights:

  • Sees Fy21 expenses below $10B
  • Credit impairment to remain low for rest of year
  • Sees increasing full-year dividend over time
  • Sees return to 5-7% growth from Fy22

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